Edmund Rice Education Australia Touchstone
Justice and Solidarity
A Catholic School in the Edmund Rice tradition challenges to provide opportunities for involvement in immersion programs in which students and staff form relationships, work with and learn from those on the margins
Over the last school holidays Grant Offner, Rory Mackintosh, Miller Irwin, Tyrone Mafohla, James Rigas, Luke Keiler, (students from Year 11), Mr Jon Paul Grant and I attended the annual Immersion to Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the Immersion is Kesheni, which means ‘Stay Awake’ in Swahili. In attending this immersion, it is hoped that we are challenged to stay awake to the needs of those that are less fortunate. The program provided us with the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the work of Edmund Rice Ministries in the slums of Nairobi, with the hope of challenging and inspiring us to become agents for change in our own community and to motivate others to support the impoverished and disempowered in our local context. The program also serves to continue to develop and strengthen connections between Edmund Rice Ministries in Nairobi Kenya and St Edward’s College.
As part of our Founders Day celebration every second year, students at St Edward’s donate money which is distributed to worthy organisations in Australia and abroad. This year the funds raised from Years 7, 8 and 9 were donated to the Mary Rice Centre. The Mary Rice Centre is a school which has been established by the Christian Brothers to support disabled students in the Kibera slum. This money was used to purchase the Centre a new demountable classroom, which is to be used instead of the shipping containers currently being utilised. The beauty of this year’s immersion was that we were able to assist in building the classroom. Mr Grant, the boys and I had a wonderful day assembling the classroom under the guidance of the Kenyan builders and local men. The boys’ additional muscle in lifting walls, barrowing, mixing and laying the cement floor enabled the classroom to be built in half the normal time.
This day was just one of many highlights of the immersion and the student participants have each written a brief report on each of the elements of the immersion. I would like to thank Rory, James, Grant, Millar, Luke and TJ for being great ambassadors for St Edward’s College. Mr Grant and I are very proud of the way in which they immersed themselves fully in every activity, showing great respect, dignity and compassion towards everyone and every ministry that we visited. Before leaving Australia, we spoke about the importance of opening our hearts and minds to the beauty of Kenya and its people. We were challenged in many ways, but what was learnt, I am sure was very rich.
The Mary Rice Centre was for me, a place like no other. Just being in the Centre, I could feel the altruism radiating from the kind-hearted staff, parents and students. Sitting on a hill, the Mary Rice Centre is a beacon that shines over the Kibera slums. The Mary Rice Centre is a Day Care Centre that supports children with physical and intellectual disabilities. The Centre was the highlight for me for the entire trip and my experience there is one that will stay with me forever. Within the first hour of being there with the staff and students, it was evident the amazing impact this place was having on the community. On some of our visits we had a chance to help in the classrooms and even put up a new classroom, which the students of St Edward’s raised money for on Founders day. Words cannot describe how amazing the kids were at the Centre, and their joy and happiness was so contagious. The Kenya trip as a whole was an experience of a life-time, something I’ll never forget.
My favourite part of the trip was being with the kids at the Mary Rice Centre. Being able to set up a classroom for them was a really rewarding experience, and that was probably one memory that will stay with me for a long time.
Women for Women is an organisation that works closely with the mothers of the Kibera slum community. Women for Women focuses on empowering women of all ages, through life skills eg. sewing, knitting and bead making. The organisation that is run by Sister Leonida and Sister Kevina does great work with outreach programs and mentoring for mother’s as well. Women for Women opens every Friday to run the empowerment classes, the ladies will come into the Centre and focus on making clothes and handbags, then they will take their new creations home to sell to make a living. The equipment at the organisation is free to use due to funding from other organisations and schools like St Edward’s College.
Thank you to Mr Bonnici and Mr Grant for volunteering their time to take the boys and me on the trip of a lifetime.
During the time from embarking on the journey to returning to Australia, we came back changed men following the most amazing, eye opening and utterly unbelievable experience that one can go on. It was not a holiday; however, we did do tourist type things, but the main point of this immersion was to allow us to gain a new perspective of life and learn how lucky we are here in Australia. It is nearly impossible to explain, how great the experience was as a whole, and it really is a ‘you had to be there to understand’ type situation. Throughout our time in Nairobi, we experienced some of the wonderful culture and tourist experiences that it has to offer. On the first day after arrival, we visited the Great Rift Valley, which looks out over the whole of the south of Kenya and Tanzania. At the same time, we visited the shops on the side of the road in which the boys all learnt the art of bartering (except for TJ). On other days between the immersion aspect, which was quite confronting, we visited the Giraffe Manor and the Elephant Orphanage where we were able to feed the animals. Finally, on the second last day we spent five hours travelling around the Nairobi National Park. This was unbelievable seeing all the many breeds of animals in their natural habitat. The view in the background of the city was astonishing. A challenging experience for me was the Edmund Rice Advocacy and the stories of many kids being physically and sexually abused, as well as walking through the slums and visiting the houses of people living in the second largest slum in the world. A highlight for me was meeting all the smiling, beautiful children in both the Mary Rice Centre and the Ruben Centre. The children are just so full of life and joy, despite living amongst the harshest conditions in the world, it is truly inspiring.
The Edmund Rice Advocacy Network in Kenya is something special. A group of three very committed and respectful members off the community run it. These three do exceptional work for a large number of people. The Advocacy Network delivered a presentation on their community work, as the presentation went on, a topic that we were all consumed by was their child protection scheme. This scheme really affected all of us emotionally; it defined the amount of corruption in the country, the hardships young people experience and mainly how kids are treated in homes from a young age. They work with eight ministries across three African countries focusing mainly on the surrounding communities of Kenya such as Kibera, which has the largest slum in Africa. We also learnt about the environmental work and how they approach each challenge, such as: helping the kids, challenging the government and the intense workload they have to deal with. On average, they work on three child protection cases a week, plus all their other work. Their work is inspirational and their stories will remain with me forever. It was hard for me to comprehend how they could accomplish everything from one small room with three office desks crammed in. Personally, this experience was the most eye opening and challenging from the whole trip. With other experiences such as the Rueben Centre and the Mary Rice Centre being huge highlights that I will never forget.
As I arrived in Kenya, never would I have expected to be a part of a culture like no other. This is one of the key reasons that garnered my interest in gaining a better understanding of the culture, and a hope of experiencing the completely different lifestyle that is lived in Kenya as compared to Australia.
Immediately on entering the country, the gracious people of the town I visited, Nairobi, make you feel so welcome to their community and they do not treat you or see you as an outsider, but instead they treat you as an equal and see you as one of their own. Yes, you do experience the occasional stare but this is not a sign of hatred or dislike, it is a sign of us just simply being different to them. They are some of the nicest people that you would ever come across, due to their welcoming nature, kind hearted characters and their ability to treat everyone as equal not only visitors, but also those within their own local community.
What took me by surprise was how happy the local community is, when considering just how little they live off, and the poor working conditions and environment that they are surrounded by. Just upon seeing their situation, you would think that they would be miserable, but surprisingly, it is the complete opposite. They put aside all the negativity and turn it into a positive through only seeing happiness, as they are continuing their journey in the hope of escaping the slums to live a better life. I did although realize in the end that they do not know any different, and have only adapted to the life that they live in Kenya.
After both being witness to, and experiencing life in Kenya, I compared my own way of living to their way of living, and it made me think and look upon how lucky I am. The great facilities and better quality environment that we are gifted with, sends us a message to cherish everything we have, and to not take it for granted.
It was an eye-opening experience and one that I will not forget, because I did feel so welcomed, and ended up gaining a better understanding of the Kenyan culture. The people of Kenya are so happy with so little, but even with that aspect of their lives, they still admitted themselves that they are proud to be Kenyan people.
The Reuben Centre provides hope for the people of the Mukuru slum and can best be described as an oasis away from the struggles of the outside world. We visited the Centre twice, the first day we were taken around to all the projects run by the Centre, these include the Paygo Sustainable Gas Cooking Project which provides gas for the community, the Maternity and Medical Wards, weaving and sewing classes, and many other classes that help young people gain work after school. The school caters for 3000 kids who were all instantly attracted to us, kids would grab and feel our hair and comment on the ‘softness’ of it. The Reuben Centre also has a special needs classroom, this room is incredible, we were welcomed with lots of hugs and joyful faces and this experience was something we will all remember forever.
Overall the entire Immersion was probably the best two weeks of my life, I cannot pick one single moment to say what was my favourite, I did not want to leave. Words honestly cannot describe the amazing people of Kenya and their happiness, for people who have very little they are unbelievably happy, it truly makes me realise how lucky we are in Australia. The trip had a few challenges but the one that really challenged me was going to the Edmund Rice Advocacy, the things the workers go through is incredibly tough and emotionally challenging. I would like to thank Mr Grant and Mr Bonnici for taking me on this trip as well as the boys for the endless laughs. I also would like to recommend this Immersion to any boy considering going, as it is an experience that you will never forget.
Welcome back to all students and staff for fourth term. According to the College calendar, this is to be a very busy term and I encourage all boys to use it to their best by completing all assessment tasks on time, consolidating a good study pattern balanced by sport and activity.
Students in Years 7-10 will benefit from analysing the feedback provided in the term three Interim Report that was uploaded to the portal at the end of last term. Students will be provided with the opportunity in tutor to analyse the goals that they have set for the year and gauge how they are working towards achieving these goals. They will be encouraged to identify areas that they believe they can improve and reflect on strategies to bring about this improvement.
Year 11 will receive their Preliminary Report in the coming weeks. This report provides excellent feedback in the form of an assessment mark, examination mark and a teacher’s comment on their performance in the Preliminary Course. Students will begin to consider which subject they may wish to discontinue into the HSC year, but are encouraged to take their time in making this decision. Feedback from teachers, ongoing assessment and discussion with parents are vital in making an informed decision about their final pattern of study for the HSC. I wish everyone a successful Term 4.
Year 12 students began their Higher School Certificate examinations last Thursday. The English examinations were the first of many exams to be conducted over a four week period. I would like to wish all Year 12 students the best of luck in these examinations and look forward to celebrating them finishing their time with us at St Edward’s at their Graduation on 16 November 2018.
Through the generosity of various College stakeholders, the College is able to offer one part-scholarship to current Year 10 students and one part-scholarship to current Year 8 students, which will contribute to the costs of schooling for the subsequent two years at St Edward’s College. Applications for these are open to current Year 8 and Year 10 students. Applications close on Friday 9 November. For further information, please go to the Enrolments page of the College website.